Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Diego Forlan gets his reward

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and co may have had all the hype before this World Cup, but different names have ended up on all the prizes. Despite what Nike and Pepsi wanted us believe, there were other players at this World Cup, players at the top of their games playing hard for their time in the spotlight. The World Cup in South Africa decided to shine its lights on the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, David Villa and Thomas Mueller. The superstars left early, and other names rushed in to take their place.

Diego Forlan had been in the shadow of the world’s so called best for too long, despite having plenty of silverware and a magnificant goalscoring record. The lack of attention was mainly due to a combination of not playing for a ‘big’ International side and being labelled by the English media as the Manchester United ‘flop’. Despite this however, with 5 goals and a Golden Ball award at his side, Diego Forlan has shown his class to the World.

Diego Forlan was born on 19 May 1979 in Montevideo. His father, Pablo Forlan, also played for Uruguay as a defender, and appeared at the 1966 & 1974 World Cup finals.

Making a name
Forlan started his career in South America, and made his name playing for Argentine club Independiente between 1998 and 2001. He quickly made a name for himself as a goalscorer, scoring 40 goals in 91 appearances. This record had attracted attention from Europe and from Sir Alex Ferguson in particular.

In January 2002, at the age of twenty two, Diego Forlan joined Manchester United for a fee of £6.9 million. Forlan played at Manchester United over the course of two and half seasons, and his struggles are well known in English football circles. Forlan was relatively young when he came to England, in a new continent speaking a new language. The environment and the pressure of playing for one of the World’s biggest clubs at a young age seemed too much for the Uruguayan. He was also not helped by being in the shadow of Ruud Van Nistelrooy, one of Manchester United’s record goalscoreres. Forlan scored a disappointing 17 goals in 98 appearances, and ultimately left English football in 2004.

New life in Spain
In August 2004, Diego Forlan joined Villarreal where he was an instant success. In his first season, Forlan scored 25 league goals, winning the Pichichi Trophy and his first European Golden Boot. His goals helped Villarreal reach the Champions League for the first time in their history. Needless to say, Forlan’s first season in Spain was a resounding triumph. Forlan spent three seasons at Villarreal before signing for Atletico Madrid in June 2007. Atletico had recently sold Fernando Torres to Liverpool and Forlan was seen as a direct replacement.

Life in Madrid was equally rewarding for Forlan, and the 2008-09 season was a remarkable one for the Uruguayan. He again won the Pichichi Trophy in La Liga as well as the European Golden Boot for the second time, scoring a staggering 32 league goals in 33 appearances. In the 2009-10 season Forlan inspired Atletico to victory in the Europa League, scoring home and away against Liverpool in the semi and getting both goals against Fulham in the final in Hamburg. Despite Atletico having a poor season, Forlan still managed to score 18 league goals, often in important matches.

International rise
Diego Forlan had to wait until he was 22 years old before he finally made his debut for Uruguay in a friendly match against Saudi Arabia. He was at Manchester United during this time, and was very much in the shadow of more established players such as Alvaro Recoba. Forlan did make the Uruguay squad for the 2002 World Cup. After being brought on as a substitute in the last group game, Forlan scored a magnificant volley in a 3-3 draw with Senegal.

Uruguay failed to reach the second round in 2002, and did not qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. In 2010, Uruguay were the last team to qualify for South Africa, beating Costa Rica in a playoff. A Diego Forlan inspired team reached the semi final of the 2010 World cup, with Forlan himself scoring 5 goals and winning the Golden Ball trophy for the best player of the tournament.


Fulfilled Potential 

Forlan is truly an exceptional goalscorer. He can score as easily with either foot, is quick and ultra composed on the ball. He can strike a ball from any distance, seemingly scoring from range as easily as from the spot. He is a very clever player who rarely wastes possession and never wastes a chance on goal. During his time in Spain, Forlan has matured into a World class striker, and with each year he seems to get better. Forlan has forged fantastic partnerships with Kun Aguero and Luis Suarez at Atletico Madrid and Uruguay respectively. Even at 31 years of age, Forlan’s goals look a long way from drying up.

Forlan had an exceptional World Cup. No longer in anyone’s shadow, he was free to run the Uruguayan team from a position just off the front. His goals and influence dragged the South American team right through to the semi final, where they only just came up short. The Golden Ball award is deserved recognition for a fabulous player who won everyone over with a collection of superb goals and lashings of class.

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